The Bible and Eastern Thought

A common intellectual mistep in our day is the notion that the Bible was written in the framework of Eastern thought and that we Westerners misconstrue it by interpreting it within the framework of  Western thought, which we inherited from the Greeks and Romans. Western thought, so the theory goes, is rational, logical, analytical, and chronological while Eastern thought is spiritual, intuitive, holistic, and timeless (cyclical). So, the theory continues, if we want to understand the Bible rightly, we must let go of our Western approach and embrace an Eastern approach.

I take umbrage to this notion and regard it as just another piece of slick intellectualism designed to undermine the authority of the Bible. Western theology does not derive its philosophical framework for understanding the Bible from its culture — neither current culture, nor ancient culture. It derives its philosophical framework from the Bible itself.

The Bible, for instance, teaches a strictly chronological approach to history — a series of distinct, one-time events: creation, the fall, the curse, the tower of Babel, the flood, the call of Israel, the Exodus, the giving of the law, the first coming of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the righteous, the restoration of Israel, the kingdom, the lifting of the curse, the binding of Satan, the casting of Satan into the lake of fire, the Great White Throne judgment.  All of these events occured, or will occur, at a distinct moment in a linear flow of history. There is no cycling. None of these events will  be repeated. None of these events will be followed by analogies that are spiritually, essentially, or morally comparable. The entire scenario flies in the face of the intellectual conception of Eastern thought.

Likewise, every human being experiences a linear flow of history marked by one-time events like conception, birth, and death. Those who become believers in Jesus also experience a one-time new birth at a definite point in time. And all men at the moment of death are ushered into an unending, unchanging eternal destiny — either a happy eternity in heaven or an excruciating eternity in hell. There is no cycling here. The whole process from conception to eternal destiny is linear. No step is repeated. No step can be repeated. There are no second chances. There are no replays. “It is appointed unto men to die once and then face the judgment.” Nothing here bears the remotest resemblance to the so-called Eastern thought.

Furthermore, God is logical and rational, and he encourages us to be logical and rational. Indeed, we exist in a reality that can only be negotiated by logic and reason. Every day we face decisions that require us to say yes or no, to stop or go, to risk or not risk, to obey or disobey. Our legal system is based on the concepts of guilty or innocent. People are members or non-members, citizens or non-citizens. Men are either alive or dead, saved or lost, believers or unbelievers, true prophets or false prophets, walking in light or walking in darkness. And they will spend eternity in one of two destinies — heaven or hell. Now I grant that things sometimes appear fuzzy to us, and we don’t seem to have such clear choices, but I would point out that any apparent fuzziness is due to lack of understanding on our part, not due to fuzziness in the reality. In other words, man is the problem, not reality.

Again, answers to math problems are either right or wrong. Electrical appliances are either on or off. Vehicles are either moving or not moving. Things either work or don’t work. Mankind and animal-kind are male and female. Magnetic fields have two poles. This is the world — the reality — that we live in. To attempt to operate outside this logical paradigm is to shut your eyes to reality. While things can have multiple layers of binary choices, or offer three distinct options (as electron, neutron, and proton), or four distinct options (as the four different bases of DNA), such situations are merely more sophisticated expressions of logical reality, not contradictions of it. Indeed, the whole of creation is filled with wonderful mathematical patterns and progressions. To pretend that the world around us is not logical, but murky and mystical, is absurd.

The Bible, then, presents to us a view of reality in which man lives in a logical creation and moves forward on a linear, chronological timeline. This perception of reality is best referred to as biblical realism (or some such term). The West does not have a monopoly on it. The West did not invent it. The West merely embraced it from the Bible. Eastern mysticism, which is often euphemistically referred to as Eastern thought, is a rejection — in part if not in whole —  of the reality revealed in the Bible. And this battle between realism and pagan mysticism is an ancient battle.  Indeed, we read in the Word of God, “You have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with Eastern ways” (Is. 2:6). The context leaves us with no doubt as to what these Eastern ways consisted of: rejecting Jehovah and embracing the idolatry and materialism of paganism. In other words, rejecting the binary paradigm (there is only one right way — the God of the Bible and the Bible of God) and embracing the mystical paradigm (there are many valid ways to express one’s spirituality). This is the lie behind all lies.

May we all resist the efforts of the Enemy to introduce murkiness and mysticism into the Christian faith.

 

“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”

Lee W. Brainard

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1 comment
  1. Paul Brinkerhoff
    Paul Brinkerhoff
    November 12, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you, Lee. Your iconoclasm and rebuilding efforts are clarifying and edifying!

    Reply

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